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New pope celebrated at annual Mass for the sick

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SOUTH END — This year’s Mass of Hope and Healing became a Mass of thanksgiving for the Catholic Church’s new pope as well. The annual Mass, sponsored by the Office of Health Care Ministry for those who are sick, was celebrated at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on April 24, the day of Pope Benedict XVI’s installation Mass.

Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley tied the events together in his homily, beginning by saying that every disciple of Jesus is called to continue His healing ministry.

“We all have the power to lighten a burden, share a sorrow or speak a word of comfort and therefore heal a heart,” he said.

Healing is not always a “dramatic event.” More commonly people heal others with words that let another know they are loved, needed and supported.

“The gesture, the phone call, the presence all make a difference. Those of you who are involved in healthcare the pastoral ministry of the sick, have a very special privilege of serving God through those whom you serve,” he said.

Those who heal represent the “merciful face of the Heavenly Father” in the life of those they help. The pope, as the successor to Peter, is also the physical presence of God on earth, he added.

“Sometimes we can be so caught up in the personality and achievements of individuals — and we all have our preferences as far as style, age or ethnicity — but today we need to focus on the meaning of the papacy, the ministry of people,” Archbishop O’Malley said.

The pope’s ministry is so important that prayers are offered for him at every Mass and Catholics everywhere should pray for him so that he can continue to boldly proclaim the Gospel and be a loving face of God.

“Pope Benedict XVI was elected so quickly by the largest and most diverse conclave in the history of the Church,” he added. “I trust that God has given the Church the shepherd we need at this moment.”

In the Gospel reading that was proclaimed during the Mass, the disciples ask Jesus to show them the Father. Pope Benedict, the archbishop said, is trying to answer that call, and all Catholics have a responsibility to show God to the world.

“The world is saying to you, ‘Show us God. Show us the Father,’ and in your love and compassion and healing service you are doing just that — helping people to glimpse the merciful love of our Heavenly Father,” he said, addressing those in health care ministry.

Following the homily, Archbishop O’Malley and other priests participated in the laying on of hands. All those seeking healing were invited to come forward.

Jean Marchant, director of the Office of Health Care Ministry, said she was moved at the sight of all those who processed forward to receive prayers and healing.

“It’s good that we can be together, pray for one another, pray for healing and for hope,” she said.

Jesus reached out to the marginalized and called His followers to do the same, said Karen Murray, director of the archdiocesan Office for Persons with Disabilities.

Murray, who uses a wheelchair, has been involved in disability ministry for over 10 years, trying to find more ways to be welcoming, accessible and inclusive to all people with disabilities, she said.

Diana Perry said she appreciated the archbishop’s “sensitive remarks” about illness and his comments about the new pope.

Perry said she is “highly enthusiastic” and “very grateful” for Pope Benedict who is filling a position of “extreme value.”

Perry, who uses a crutch and a cane, has recently come back from a long absence from Mass due to illness. She hopes to come back to Mass at the cathedral regularly, “God willing,” she added as she carefully descended the steps of the cathedral to catch her ride home.

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